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The Blackbird Diet: How to Lose Weight by Feeding the Birds

English: Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) The s...
The plumper the bird, the thinner the person who feeds it

One of my New Year’s Resolutions has morphed into a New Year’s Revelation – that feeding the birds is an excellent aid to losing weight.

No sooner do I start chucking stale bread crumbs outside the back door at breakfast time than  a  few blackbirds, thrushes and robins arrive to peck them up.  They hop cheerfully about the patio, jerking their heads this way and that, while I admire their beautiful, subtle markings.  Give me the gorgeous tawny speckles of a song thrush any day over a peacock’s gaudy markings – though one of those occasionally visits the village too.

Debbie Young - toddler's tea party
"Eat your crusts or your hair won't curl". I can only conclude that I was force-fed an awful lot of crusts.

Intelligence of my new cafe travels fast on the avian grapevine.  Gratified by the birds’ speedy response, I decide to bump up their rations.  Here is the excuse I need to cut the crusts off my morning toast.  I’ve been averse to crusts since childhood, when I was implored to eat them to avoid waste.  (The nice man next door who gave me tiny pencils filched from the betting shop, also told me to eat my eggshells or my hair wouldn’t curl.  I had natural ringlets like Shirley Temple’s.)

The toast crusts quickly disappear, once soaked in water, as per the RSPB‘s advice to stop them swelling up post-meal in the bird’s tiny tummies. On consulting the bird feeding book (a Christmas present to myself to inform my new hobby), I discover that blackbirds and thrushes like chopped apples.  Out go the yellowing contents of the fruit basket. Ends of cake and the remains of a packet of mini doughnuts are added over the next few days. Far better to boost the birds’ calorific intake than mine.

Cooking bacon for breakfast at the weekend, I instruct the family to cut every last sliver of fat from each rasher.  This source of high energy helps birds survive cold weather. In my cosy hide behind the forest of pot plants on the utility room windowsill, I am rewarded by close-up views of nut-brown speckled songthrushes tucking into a fatty brunch.

By lunchtime, the patio is bare, so I scout around for a top-up and alight on the Christmas cake. Plenty of plump dried fruit in there to boost a chilly bird’s body temperature.

When my daughter starts back to school, my attitude to her lunchbox is transformed. I used to dread opening it on her return home to find half of it untouched, destined only for the compost bin. (She eats like a bird herself – a very chatty parrot, too busy talking to her friends to make time to finish her lunch.) Now I make a beeline for her lunchbox every day after school, viewing it as a welcome source of afternoon tea for my feathered friends.

No meal is unaffected by my new garden diners. Having been brought up to clear my plate, I’m now keen to leave a bit of rice here, a handful of of pasta there, to make sure there’s something hearty on the patio, ready for when the birds descend at dawn. And as I seek out high energy snacks for the birds, I’m gladly and painlessly pruning my own consumption of carbs and fat.

Feed the birds, tuppence a bag - Mary Poppins image
The bird lady from the Mary Poppins film

So there we have it. Janet’s Theory strikes again: if you want to get something done, do something else.  Feed the birds and you’ll lose weight.  And you don’t even have to pay tuppence a bag.

Further proof of Janet’s Theory:
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A Life Less Resolute

“2011 will be the year in which I ….” Resolve hangover cure

Can you complete that sentence yet?  Chances are, you can neatly slot in an answer inspired by your New Year’s resolutions.

Not me.  It’s not that I don’t have ideas for resolutions.  I’m certainly eligible for all the usual suspects:  eat less, drink less alcohol, go to bed earlier, exercise more.  But last year I didn’t actively make any resolutions, yet 2010 turned out to be one of the best years of my life.  It’s a formula I’m happy to repeat.

How did it happen?  Well, a radical resolution actually came at me from out of the blue, several days into the new year.   It was as sudden and unplanned as Newton’s apple falling on his head and, in my small sphere, about as revolutionary. I was in the first meeting of the year with my boss when I suddenly heard myself calmly tendering my resignation. It was unprovoked by her: we hadn’t had a row or a punch-up.   But in a light-bulb moment, I suddenly realised what I really wanted the new year to bring:  a better and less stressful work-life balance.  Amidst the sturm and drang of the Christmas break, spent caring for a very poorly daughter, this idea must have been churning away in my subconscious, but I simply hadn’t noticed.   I’m not sure which of us was the most surprised at my resignation – me or my boss.  But both of us recognised, several months down the line, that I was a happier, healthier person for this impulsive decision, and I’ve not had a single regret since.

So this year, I’m going to take the same approach.   Though I love the new beginnings and the promise that a new calendar brings, I don’t think New Year’s Day is the best time to make resolutions.   In any case, for most people in the UK, the word “RESOLVE” is inextricably associated with the commercial hangover cure of the same name – and probably quite a lot of them have consumed it today.   This doesn’t exactly create the most positive vibes.  Far better to let the freshness of the new year permeate the subconscious and see what surfaces at its leisure.

So watch this space.  Anything could happen in the next 365 days…

Happy New Year!